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  1. #1
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    Default The LAST White Blaze

    We're done.
    As of 10:15 am Tuesday, November 3, 2020 we have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail.
    It took us 10 years.
    We started on our 20th anniversary and we finished on our 30th.
    Our first section was 25-30 miles in Shenandoah and took us about 5 days.
    Our longest section was 103 miles in New York.
    Our final section was 21 miles in Tennessee from Hughes Gap to Indian Grave Gap, but we added to that by starting at Elk Park and re-hiking over the Roan Highlands, one of our favorite areas.
    This last trip took a little more than 4 days.

    Why don't you stop what you're doing, put your boots on and take a walk with me....

  2. #2
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    Sideways picture of a little bridge as we climb up the hill. It's chilly today, so you better keep moving if you don't wanna get cold.
    IMG_3416.jpg

    Some of the last blooms of the season. Isn't it amazing how resilient these "fragile" flowers are?
    IMG_3417r.JPG


    Hey, look at the cool lichens on this tree! If we were in charging of naming such things, I'm pretty sure we'd call it Oak Leaf Lichen. I'm intrigued by the sheer variety of mosses and lichens you can find, often growing together in their own tiny community.
    IMG_3418.JPG

  3. #3
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    Hah! A tree with a square hole in it!
    IMG_3419.JPG

    Elevations in this section: 4000 ft, 5000 ft, 6000 ft. Looks like it'll be fun.
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    A feast for the soul. Makes you want to spread your wings and lift off.
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    What a lovely view we have going over Hump Mountain! The cold wind keeps us moving!
    We thought we were going to camp on the balds, but nope, we head for the shelter of the trees!
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    Crab apples! Lots and lots of crab apples cover the ground near our first campsite.
    IMG_3438.JPG

  4. #4

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    Congratulations!

  5. #5
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    The Barn, beloved by many, still stands in its little valley. Condemned as structurally unsound, how long before it disappears from the landscape?
    I so hope that the materials are used to build a new structure in this location. The materials are already there, after all.
    IMG_3439.JPG

    A piped spring near the Grassy Ridge side trail. Guess who installed that pipe 5-6 years ago? My husband!
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    As we climb Roan Mountain the next evening, we see this: I just love the arching of the trees over the trail, creating a "doorway" beckoning us into another world.
    Always walk through the door!
    IMG_3459.JPG
    That night we share Roan High Knob Shelter with a thru-hiker "Wawa" while the wind and rain rage outside.
    One of the few shelters with a door, we are grateful to be inside.

    Total wildlife for the trip: a handful of birds, 2 spiders, and this cold newt, moving very slowly across the trail.
    IMG_3462r.JPG

    Our LAST summit, Unaka Mountain, 5200 feet. Compared to all the other mountains we've climbed, this is nothing - nope, not intimidating at all.
    The summit is a grove of trees, with sunlight pouring through all the gaps. The ground and lowest parts of each tree are covered in thick moss, in some cases growing 3' up the tree trunks.
    IMG_3470.JPG

  6. #6
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    After the descent from Unaka, we camp near the Beauty Spot parking lot.
    I learned that Unaka is a Cherokee word referring to the color white. Back before the chestnut blight, it is estimated that 25% of the trees in this area were American Chestnuts, which have a white bloom.
    IMG_3494.JPG
    Our LAST sunrise. The same sun seen all around the world, but it seems like it belongs to us. So beautiful! So warm!
    Michael and Heather, who generously responded to a Facebook inquiry, bring us breakfast on the trail for our LAST meal.
    It's a special day, after all!

    IMG_3501.JPG
    "Onesimus" has his camper parked at Beauty Spot. Some of you probably know him. He said he's been camping up and down the Trail for several years.
    A few weeks prior to this he was in the 100-Mile Wilderness. And by the way, he personally knows General Michael Flynn.
    He takes our picture as we begin the LAST few miles. We hit the trail at 9:00 am.

    What will it be like to finish? We're not thru-hikers touching that weathered sign on Katahdin, but we've walked just as far.
    This Trail has consumed all of our vacation time for ten years. It has filled our house with gear, our pantry with freeze-dried meals, our conversations, our cameras.
    Trail maps lie around like magazines. The Trail is our Life, and it's about to end.

    IMG_3254.JPG
    FLASHBACK: We finished the Mahoosucs, our LAST northern section, in September hiking with two others, Ironheart and Cap.
    As we descended into Grafton Notch I felt the weight of it, the long difficult journey coming to an end - but I pushed the emotion to the side.
    We were getting close, but we weren't done with the whole Trail just yet. The tears could wait...


    IMG_3506.JPG
    Back to Tennessee: It's not far, just 2 or 3 miles, but they fly by! So much for savoring the moment. As we round the bend, we see our vehicle.
    That's it - the end is just right there in view! Our time left on the Appalachian Trail isn't measured in miles, it's now seconds, perhaps a minute.

  7. #7
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    IMG_3508.JPG
    The LAST White Blaze, appropriately a double blaze since there's two of us. So many of them, and this is our LAST.

    IMG_3514.jpg
    Matching shirts I ordered with the date 11-3-2020 (easy to find because it was also Election Day!) Why can't I get this photo flipped over?????

    IMG_3515r.jpg
    We make our own mileage sign with gravel from the parking lot and three rocks that will come home with me, one from Unaka, our LAST summit, one from Beauty Spot,
    our LAST campsite, and one from Indian Grave Gap, our Terminus. They'll go in my collection, labeled with the date and location.

    Funny how each rock I have brings up fond memories, some of them clear, others fuzzy, but always with a love and longing for the Trail.

    A thru-hiker "Milkbone" comes along to witness our completion and takes a few pictures for us.

    IMG_3540.JPG
    It's our anniversary, so you can take your boots off and go back home now. We'll take it from here.
    We went to Mt Airy, NC (Mayberry) and spent the night at a place in Mount Pilot.
    We were going to climb Pilot Mountain the next day, but my husband got sick overnight, so that didn't happen. Still looks cool. Reminds me of Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

    IMG_3553.JPG
    1990 - the year we were married.

    IMG_3576.JPG
    I made our own completion certificates. Bob Peoples kindly signed them for us.
    Bob was one of the first shuttlers we used, and I still have a pink ribbon on my pack that he tied there several years ago because it was hunting season and he wanted us to be visible.
    Kincora was the first hostel we used. Thank you, Bob, for all you do for the Trail and the hiking community!



  8. #8
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by perrymk View Post
    Congratulations!
    Thank you sir, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

  9. #9

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    Heck of an accomplishment, good job!

  10. #10
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Default

    Awesome! It's quite the accomplishment
    Thanks for sharing nice report and great pics.
    What's next? (Is Otis still hanging around that jail )?

  11. #11
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    Default

    Congratulations from a fellow section hiker! Cherish the memories and keep on hiking!

  12. #12

    Default

    Illabelle, what a great accomplishment! I know you will treasure this time for the rest of your life.

    Congratulations


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  13. #13
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Default

    Wonderful!

    Even more so to have your Anniversary bookend all the many hikes.

    Best wishes for a health and hike-full next decade (and well beyond).

  14. #14

    Default

    Congratulations! Enjoyed the AT progress reports over the years. I could identify with them, as they sounded like it came from real people. This is quite an accomplishment. After all the dust settles, hope the hiking adventures do not end here.

  15. #15
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    Default

    Congratulations to you all! I've been section hiking since 2007, and I'm 1500 miles behind you!

    The blue flower is gentian.

    I think the "oak leaf lichen" is actually a bunch of oak leaves. The tree probably suffered some kind of wound or disease that triggered the odd display of leaves, a type of epicormic branching. (That's my guess as an old forestry major, but I can't tell for sure without walking up to it, touching it, smelling it, sensing it.)

  16. #16

    Default

    Congratulations! Love the Certificates as well. Glad you didn't let a little ATC dereliction of duty stop you from celebrating your accomplishment.

  17. #17

    Default

    Much congratulations! You're very inspiring. Thanks for sharing, especially the photos.

  18. #18
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Nanatuk View Post
    Congratulations! Love the Certificates as well. Glad you didn't let a little ATC dereliction of duty stop you from celebrating your accomplishment.
    And if anyone wants to get the "official" ones when they start issuing them again, it should be pretty easy. After all, anyone who has hiked the trail in sections over many years could likely find some section they hiked where the trail had since been re-routed (even if only a tiny bit). Go back, hike that re-route and now you've hiked in 2021 (if that is when they start again) and completed the trail (again).

  19. #19
    Wanna-be hiker trash
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    Default

    Congratulations!
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  20. #20
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    Default

    Thank you all for your sweet comments.

    We did not see Otis at the jail, but then it was a Wednesday, and I think he only comes in for the weekend.
    It was nice to learn that Thelma Lou and Charlene Darling are still living in the area.

    We will definitely continue hiking! I've been thinking about the PCT for a while, though we wouldn't try to do the whole thing. And then there's Alaska and Hawaii, plus more exotic places like Machu Picchu and places in Europe that I'd love to see. And while hanging out here on WB I've learned about the Wind River High Route. Sounds intimidating ... and exhilarating! So much to do, so many places. Last thing I'm going to do is sit in an easy chair and waste away.

    Those of you that are still working on your section hikes, keep at it. One mile at a time, it melts away, and then it's suddenly all gone. If you're not so young anymore, get the hard stuff done while you still can.

    I appreciate all the camaraderie and the high quality trail intel that's freely shared in this forum. Thank you all!
    Last edited by illabelle; 11-26-2020 at 15:40.

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